UK pubs must find innovative ways to keep consumers entertained in pre-COVID-times, says GlobalData

The re-opening of British pubs this month was a welcome respite for many operators, as the industry is forecast a staggering £10.1bn loss by the end of 2020, according to GlobalData. However, the grand re-opening poses new challenges – how to fill seats? In an industry reliant on close quarters and a buzzing nightlife, operators must find innovative ways to allure consumers back and make them feel safe and welcome, while earning a profit.

Unsurprisingly, the UK’s lockdown has been detrimental to the country’s pubs and bars industry. GlobalData’s COVID-19 adjusted forecasts expect the pub and bar sector to fall from an expected baseline value of £26.3bn to a slowdown £16.3bn by the end of 2020*.

So what’s the answer? Diversification may offer some hope. For example, Truman’s Social Club planned to launch a café, street food market and shop, as well as an events space offering movie screenings. This will help the operator increase brand recognition and stave off turbulence from a volatile hospitality industry – largely as it shows a shift from nightlife to daytime and family occasions.

Elena Mogoş, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Pubs are trying to keep customers safe while offering a similar pre-COVID experience. While restaurants and other foodservice outlets have started investing in streamlined, automated services to make the click and collect model quicker and easier, or are updating their online delivery services, a big part of the bar culture is the social aspect. Therefore, foodservice outlets need to make sure they do not take that away from customers.”

Of course, not every operator has the resources to launch a mini empire, particularly in times of economic downturn. Other solutions include London-based Coppa Club igloos, which is providing a romantic and private setting that also adhered to social distancing; or Trinity Buoy Wharf, which makes the most of the Thames scenic views with art exhibitions to offer consumers a unique and cultured outdoor experience – whilst enjoying a sweet cocktail. Mogoş continues: “Pubs and bars must find ways to keep consumers entertained and offer them the desired pub atmosphere. Solutions can include investing in good sound systems, offering interactive games that can be played from a distance, or providing on-table entertainment. More frequent pub quizzes could also prove to be fruitful. Ultimately, repositioning to daytime occasions and offering unique experiences that compliment a slower lifestyle will be key to ensuring repeat visits.

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